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What’s in our Ditch Bag and Med Kit??

Now that the ocean is our home, it’s critical that we have the supplies we need in the event of an emergency. This is similar to carrying emergency supplies in your car and stocking up in your home if you live where “The Big One” could tremble the earth so much it knocks out all roads, power and water at any minute, or if you live where a snow storm could leave you trapped inside a car or home, or if you live where a hurricane or tornado could demolish your town.

There are increasing numbers of Doomsday Preppers around the world today that fear a disaster of epic proportions could render them completely on their own. TV shows have depicted some of the extremes these preppers have gone to ensuring their safety and survival.

For others, it’s a less of an obsession but rather a desire for a ‘Plan B’ type of scenario that inspires them to always be prepared for anything to happen.

Peter’s uncle Dan and his wife Terry own a compound in the desert primarily for off-roading and weekend fun. They also know in the back of their minds that they have somewhere safe to go and fully stocked up with supplies and survival gear in the event that the economy crashes beyond repair and chaos breaks out in the masses.

Two of our favorite TV shows before leaving our little home in San Diego was SurvivorMan and Dual Survival. Both of these shows are of course based on survival and they really get us thinking about whether or not we would have the know-how to really survive in the wilderness. These guys demonstrate that it’s not as easy as it looks to survive in less than ideal conditions when it comes to extreme cold, heat, wind, shelter, food, hydration, finding help, medical issues, and know-how. We believe it is just as important to actually get out and tests your skills before you need to use them. Could you really make a fire with wet or no kindling? Do you know how to use a magnesium stick? Could you catch fish without a fishing pole? Would you actually know how to use a water purifier if you were dying of thirst? Do you know what to do if you’re bitten by a snake or poisonous insect? Would you know how to signal for help without a radio?

It seems so basic to know how to survive, but when you really think about it, could you?? Living on a boat for us brings a whole new meaning to SIMPLE LIVING. It’s about sustaining life and making due with the skills and tools available to us.

Back in October we built a thorough Ditch Bag and Medical Kit with everything we could think of. It was near the top of our priority list as we began outfitting the boat, knowing it MUST be done before we left the protection of Charlotte Harbor. Wonder what kind of survival tools we have on board?


All these things in mind, we assembled our Ditch Bag with the idea that we can survive and find help if something ever happened to the boat, if we were swept out to sea in the dinghy or stranded on an island somewhere. Our ditch bag is essentially a dry-bag with all of the basic survival gear we might need in the event of an emergency. Although one time the Ditch Bag was accidentally left on board instead of taken out in the dinghy during a diving expedition, we have made it a policy to ALWAYS bring the Ditch Bag when we take the dinghy anywhere. Even if it’s just for a quick potty run to shore with the dogs, ANYTHING could happen. Two items we know are missing are a handheld GPS and a handheld VHF radio. We’ve put those on our wish list :)

Our Ditch Bag lives in the cockpit where it’s readily accessible during a storm. If we ever needed to leave the boat, we would be stepping ‘up’ into the life raft with our Ditch Bag in hand and hydrostatic inflatable Mustang life vests and harnesses already on. We’ve also each got an ACR ResQLink+ GPS-enabled Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) fastened to our life vests.

Ditch Bag Inventory:

  • Line to tie the Ditch Bag to the dinghy – JUST INCASE :)
  • Spot Tracking device with 911 capability
  • Beef jerky – high protein content, light weight and stores well
  • Knife
  • Fishing line
  • Fishing hooks
  • Fully charged 2-way radio (the other one stays on the boat)
  • PUR water purification pump – pickled
  • 1 beach towel
  • Flares
  • Matches
  • Lighter
  • Waterproof flashlight with fully charged batteries
  • Dog leash
  • Bungee cord
  • Paracord
  • 2 space blankets
  • Dinghy patch kit
  • US Army compass
  • 2 rain ponchos
  • Duct tape
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug spray
  • Whistle/mirror/watertight container of matches/compass – combo tool
  • Magnesium stick
  • Tourniquet made from an old Hawaiian sling band
  • Napkins in a ziplock bag
  • Gloves
  • 2 gallon ziplock bags
  • Black plastic trash bag
  • Wound seal powder
  • Medical tape
  • Ace bandages
  • Ear drops
  • Eye wash
  • Potable Aqua drops
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • ChapStick with sunscreen
  • Miscellaneous bandaids
  • Burn gel
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Rubbing alcohol spray
  • Nail clippers
  • Medical scissors
  • Insect bite relief wipes
  • Ibuprofen
  • Benadryl
  • Bar of soap
  • Immodium – antidiarrheal




This boat is our home so all of the medical items we would normally have in a house are also here on the boat. We keep most internal medicines in the lockers in the aft head while the water-tight med kits are stored in the lockers in the forward head. It is critical that these items are organized in a way that we can find what we need quickly.

Just like the Ditch Bag, its important that our med kit is sealed in a water-tight container. Because we have so many items in our med it, we opted to use two large locking lid Tupperware containers. We personally like the SnapWare kind that come in different sizes and lid colors. They have gaskets that seal well and the lids stay locked keeping out air, water and bugs.

Each container has the contents labeled on the outside for quick reference and the items inside are organized in groups, separated by ziplock bags and labeled in further detail. We keep a bag nearby in case we need to grab our whole med kit in a hurry and bring our supplies an injured person in need of help off of our boat.

Something we didn’t start out with in our medical supplies is several courses of antibiotics. We didn’t plan far enough ahead to meet with our doctors before we left California to obtain the courses one might need in a marine environment. Now that we are out of the US we hope to pick some basic antibiotics in a pharmacy or clinic where they won’t cost an arm and a leg ;) We did start off with one course of antibiotics, however Peter already needed it back in Florida when a hardhead saltwater catfish barb punctured his knuckle. It was horribly painful and poisonous. Thanks to our friends Lisa and Will at The Trading Post/Calusa Queen Eco Tours in Burnt Store Marina we googled it in a hurry and found that hot water over 103 degrees (or as hot as you can stand) will neutralize the poison and take the pain away instantly. It could have turned into a nasty infection but we were lucky to already have the medicine we needed on hand. We’ve also learned that hot water is also the remedy to neutralize a sting from Lionfish, Stonefish and most other venomous creatures in a marine environment. If you’re ever out in the dinghy and someone happens to be stung by one of these painful encounters, the raw water exhaust on your outboard motor will do the trick until you can get to shore to find hotter water.

Large Medical Kit Inventory (blue lid – external supplies):

  • Medical tape
  • Respirator mask
  • Scissors
  • Space blanket
  • Antiseptic prep pads
  • Sterile gauze compresses
  • Miscellaneous bandaids – latex and latex-free organized by size and material
  • Thermometer
  • Tourniquet made from an old Hawaiian sling band
  • Permanent marker
  • Latex free gloves
  • Sterile IV catheter – incase we come across a medical professional that might be able to use it?
  • Tweezers
  • Surgical lubricant
  • Sterile blood collection kit
  • Sterile disposable lancet
  • Sterile closure strips
  • Several quick reference first-aid guides



Small Medical Kit Inventory (purple lid – external supplies):

Antiseptic Ointment:

  • Antiseptic lotion
  • Bacitracin
  • Polysporin
  • Triple antibiotic ointment

Burn Treatment:

  • Burn gel
  • Black Tea


  • Nasal spray
  • Sinus rinse packets


  • Contact solution
  • Eye drops
  • Vigamox – pinkeye


  • Drawing Salve
  • Poison ivy, oak and sumac cleanser
  • Hydrocortosone cream
  • Antihistamine cream
  • Clobetasol propionate – eczema, rash, skin inflammation
  • Meat tenderizer – jellyfish stings


  • Premixed ear drop solution – rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide and vinegar
  • Prescription drops for ear infections
  • Wax ear plugs
  • Foam ear plugs

Miscellaneous Topical Ointments:

  • A&D
  • Tinactin
  • Clotrimazole
  • Preparation H
  • Icy Hot
  • Retin-A
  • Compound-W
  • Mederma scar gel
  • Muscle rub lotion



Miscellaneous Medical Supplies and Internal Medication Inventory:

  • Vinegar
  • Sunscreen
  • Aloe Vera
  • ChapStick with Sunscreen
  • Bug Spray
  • NyQuil
  • Pepto Bismol liquid and tablets
  • Tums
  • Fiber chewables
  • Throat lozenges
  • Throat Coat tea
  • Nasal spray
  • Sore throat spray
  • Omeprezole – acid reflux/heartburn
  • Rantidine – acid reflux/heartburn
  • Benadryl
  • Caffeine pills
  • Dimenhydrinate – motion sickness
  • MotionEase – topical motion sickness
  • Aspirin
  • Ibuprofen
  • Excedrine Migraine
  • Immodium tablets – anti-diarrheal
  • Ondansetron ODT – nausea/vomiting
  • Arsenicum album – food poisoning
  • Xopenex inhaler
  • Stool softener
  • Vaseline
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Witch Hazel
  • Tea Tree oil
  • Epsom salt
  • Vinyl gloves
  • Betadine/Iodine
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Tinactin fungal spray
  • Gauze
  • Ace bandages


Medical Books and Reference Guides:

  • The Merck Manual of Medical Info
  • Your Offshore Doctor
  • American Red Cross 1st Aid/CPR/AED manual
  • The US Armed Forces Survival Manual

There are many great medical reference books out there but these are what we had on hand before we left. In hindsight there are a few others we would have liked to order, but hopefully this will be sufficient should we ever need them. What medical books do you recommend for full-time cruisers like ourselves?

Please share any survival stories you have as well as tips and tricks we might not find in any books :)

We feel we have done a pretty thorough job at assembling our medical supplies and Ditch Bag. We also know you can never be too prepared. Leave us a comment and let us know what other MUST-HAVE items we may have forgotten!! We’d love to hear from you!


**UPDATE** We have recently added several courses of antibiotics to our supply that we picked up at a pharmacy in the Dominican Republic. We have also added lidocaine, sutures and a suture removal kit.

Shakedown Shivers


We left the marina yesterday for another shakedown cruise out in Pelican Bay/Cayo Costa. Our first stop was the Burnt Store Marina fuel dock on the way out for our very first fill up. It was a little strange being on that side of the dock as we have been walking past there for the last three months. We filled up both tanks and our jerry cans too. The dogs got their daily treat from the marina staff as we handed over the credit card. Ouch! It was almost five times the cost of filling up an SUV! As the old saying goes, BOAT stands for bust out another thousand!

We had a nice sail out across the harbor with all three sails up. Toward the end we motorsailed a bit and dropped the sails before following our tracks into the narrow entrance to Pelican Bay.

Peter and Josh raised the dinghy over the lifelines with the main halyard and prepared for the trip to shore. The outboard was acting up and not getting fuel correctly. Peter and I chanced it to take the dogs to shore but Josh and Leah hung back just incase it stopped working all together. We made it to shore and I took the pups for a quick dinnertime walk to do their business. We got back to the dinghy dock only to learn that the outboard wouldn’t start again so Peter and I had to row back. Luckily the current was heading towards our boat this time. We forgot to grab the seat for the dinghy.

We made it back and started prepping for dinner. Leah and I had everything ready to go and I went to turn on the stove to boil some rice. AND there’s no propane! I checked the safety button on the wall, checked the breaker, everything seemed right but there was just no gas in the lines. The guys checked the tanks and discovered the needle in the gauge for the house tank was broken off. Weird! The BBQ worked fine off the small tank so they switched it to hook up the small tank to the main lines. Still no propane getting to the galley. We checked the breaker and wires but it all tested fine. It was getting late and dark and VERY chilly! We were all looking forward to a hot meal. Looks like this will need to wait until we get back to calmer waters back at the dock.

Even though we had a change of plans, we still put the steaks on the BBQ and cooked a bunch of veggies in the microwave. Our FourWinds wind generator was cookin all night long so we had enough juice to run the inverter for the microwave for awhile.

After dinner we tried for hot showers again like we did last time at anchor. For some reason the hot water heater just wasn’t getting as hot as it normally does. Peter tried a shower anyway and it was not a pleasant experience with the weather so cold outside. We’re going to test out our solar shower next time. So weird though… first the outboard, then the propane, now the hot water heater? We sure are shaking out some kinks while shivering on this shakedown :( Better to find out now than after we leave the dock for good!

It howled at 25-30 knots all night long. Josh and Leah were kept awake by the loud crashing of the waves against the bow while Peter and I had to listen to the wind generator prepare for lift off. It’s crazy how loud that thing gets when it’s really cranking. Peter and I were also paranoid about dragging anchor with the high winds so we didn’t get much sleep. Maybe an hour or two all night. The anchor alarm went off a couple times and scared us half to death. Turns out we were just swinging all the way around from where the anchor was dug in. After the sun came up we were convinced we were still holding good.

Gunner wouldn’t go potty before bed but Betsy did. It was too cold and windy out and Gunner wanted no part of that! They both went on deck in the morning though, thank goodness! No #2s but we’re off to a good start. At least we know they’ll go if they really have to.

We got the dingy back in place on the bow and began stowing everything down below. Josh drove while Peter tended to the windlass and pulled the anchor up. This time he wore gloves :) The wind was still blowing 15-18 but we got out of Pelican relatively easily. Our boat does circles around the anchor no matter how you drive her when there is wind and strong currents. The keel hit sand a couple times on the way out with 5.6 on the depth gauge. We made it out only to hit 15 knots on our nose all the way back to the marina. Peter opted to motor back to get to the dock before sunset.

We’ve got the tunes going in the cockpit as I write this and we’re all relaxing in the sun for a rolly ride back to Burnt Store :)


First night at anchor

Last weekend we had a perfect opportunity to take the boat out and try anchoring overnight for the first time. The weather was nice, tides were favorable and we finally had the confidence to take the boat out by ourselves with no extra crew! We’ve been out on S/V Mary Christine maybe 10 times already but every time so far we’ve had someone else with us, either friends or family. Our first time out just the two of us was amazing! Its starting to sink in a little more, we’re really doing this :)


We sailed across Charlotte Harbor over to Cayo Costa where our friends Jan and David had arrived an hour or two ahead of us. Its real tricky to get in and out of Pelican Bay where everyone anchors up. There is a very narrow channel with 1-3 feet depths on either side. Since we didn’t have previous tracks in and out, Jan and David met us in their dinghy to lead us in.




I backed the boat down as Peter dropped the anchor. We don’t have our chain marked yet for length but Peter did a rough estimate of how much chain he was letting out. It was pretty rusty and made an awful mess on the bow. We pulled the anchor snubber out of the depths of the line locker and got that all set up too. The current made it a challenge to keep the boat into the wind and to reverse in the right direction at the same time. We did pretty good for the first time though!! I suppose it’s just like docking… practice makes perfect. Pretty soon we’ll be doing this in our sleep, literally ;)


The next item on the agenda was to drop the dinghy into the water. We hooked it up to the mail halyard and lowered our dink down. Suddenly, we realized something was missing…

Our gas tank was safe and sound inside a crate… back on the dock at Burnt Store Marina!! No need to take the outboard off anymore! We will be rowing this time. Good thing I like to row!

We grabbed a spare line to tie the dinghy up at shore and got the dogs ready. Betsy is only 45 lbs so Peter could pretty much just pick her up off the deck and set her down. She was a little unsure of it all but that dog has no fear!



I didn’t get any pics of lowering Gunner down because it was a two-person job. I’ll try for some next time so you all can see how we get this big guy around. Thanks to our AWESOME ‘Help’EmUp‘ harnesses, we were able to get a 75 lb dog off the boat into the dinghy relatively easily! Peter grabbed the forward handle and I held the rear hip lift handle and we lowered him down. Gunner had one thing on his mind… Get To Shore!! He gets really excited to go anywhere so this was totally fun for him. They both did really well once they were inside. We have an aluminum floor so we didn’t worry too much about their nails.


The current was moving with us and we got to shore pretty quick. The dogs got to stretch their legs and we checked out a few of the trails.

We wen’t back to the boat right away and started on dinner. BBQ pork loin and Caribbean rice was on the menu. Our LED cockpit lights were on and the evening was just perfect as we enjoyed our first meal at anchor. Next was time for showers. Since our generator isn’t quite fixed yet, we ran the main engine to be able to use the hot water heater. Hot water showers at anchor? Yes Please!! It was sooo refreshing. We snuggled up and enjoyed being rocked to sleep as the small waves lapped up against the hull.

All was quiet until 4am. Gunner has been recovering from a bladder infection and in the wee hours of the morning he HAD to go potty. The way he was whining and talking to us let me know that he really had to go.  Peter was sound asleep, but I got Gunner up into the cockpit and took him back to the aft deck where our chunk of Astroturf lay waiting for the first potty away from the dock. It didn’t take long and Gunner copped a squat. HOORAY!!!! This was such a relief to know he’ll actually go if he needs to.

The dogs have been in training for a few weeks now. We would sneak the fake grass underneath them as they peed to get a little scent on it. If we held them in place long enough they would go as long as it sat over top of the real grass on shore. Betsy finally got the hang of it and she doesn’t have any trouble going on the boat if we tell her to.

Gunner must have been nervous because he had to go again at 6am and 8am. He was whining all night long and would NOT go to sleep. When 6am rolled around I decided to just stay in the cockpit with him incase he was trying to hold back a #2. It was cold, breezy and very dewy. Even though I didn’t get more than a couple of hours of sleep I did my best to enjoy the stillness of the bay around us. The sun began to come up and the gratitude slowly grew. A sliver of serenity? Youbetcha!


We had anchored in the deep hole in the center of Pelican Bay. When the sun came up I heard splashing all around and realized the dolphins were herding fish and feeding. They kept popping up in different places as they went around in circles swimming by all the boats.


In the morning we went to shore again and walked across the island to the gulf.


There were shells EVERYWHERE! The tiny pieces littered the white sand beaches as far as I could see.



There were a few horseshoe crab shells along the shore as well. Check out Jan’s post if you want to learn a little more about these strange-looking creatures of the sea :)



When it was time to row back to Mary Christine the wind was NOT our friend. It was blowing 15-20 knots and we had to row up wind. There were a few times we got a little scared we would be swept out to the gulf. We were barely making any progress and I all could do was cheer Peter on. He powered through it getting us and the 12′ dinghy back safely. Scary.

We wanted to get back to the marina before sunset so we pulled up the anchor and followed our tracks back out to the harbor. It was a little tricky keeping the boat into the wind again while Peter pulled up the anchor but we managed.


We sailed back and the puppies were happy to be going somewhere again.



We ended this awesome adventure by catching our very first fish while underway!! Spanish Mackerel… mmm!


Back at the marina we docked for the first time alone, and of course it went way easier than I expected :) We had a lot of firsts and a lot of fun!

Until next time!!

Dreaming of Davits


There are few things our boat didn’t come equipped with, and davits was one of them. A lot of boats have really nice custom stainless steel davit systems off the stern to hold their dinghies out of the water. Not a big deal though, this just means we get to hoist the dinghy up onto the bow when we want to take it out of the water. To us, its a luxury we don’t need right now. It would cost a pretty penny to fabricate a custom davit system for the Mary Christine.

Of course we had to do a couple exploratory fishing trips when we first bought our new vehicle, but then we had to get it out of the salt water ASAP. Even just a few days floating around in this marina was enough for sea life to start growing on the bottom. The algae was super slimy and there were tiny little barnacles starting to grow.

First we had to rig up a makeshift 3-point bridle to provide a little extra support instead of just using a single D-ring for the lifting. Next, we hooked up our main halyard to the D-ring hooks and started to winch the dinghy up out of the water along the side of the boat. The dinghy is roughly 110lbs (with the aluminum floor boards in) so having that winch makes it way easier to raise it up.


A little soap, water and couple of deck brushes took off a majority of the slime.




Up Up and Away! Peter got the dinghy up and over the lifelines while I helped guide it into position on the foredeck. That thing looks frickin HUGE when its up in the air!!

We found an old tannish brown sail cover at the used marine trading store and it just so happened to be long enough and wide enough when opened up all the way to cover our massive 12′ tender. It may not look pretty and some of the edges are a little torn but it’ll do the job!! It was only $20 and it will help protect the PVC from the wicked UV rays that we’re going to be in for a long time. Without some sort of protection, the PVC just doesn’t last very long at all, so we’ve been told. For now, our camo tie down straps will be holding it down. We’ve taken her out in 20knot winds this past weekend and didn’t have a problem at all with the cover coming loose. It’ll work until it doesn’t work anymore ;)


(Did anyone notice we’re getting closer to the waterline? :) After we fill up the fuel tanks and get all the provisioning before setting sail to the Bahamas we should be sitting right at the dark green stripe!)

New Vehicle


Our new secondary means of transportation is finally ready to rock n roll!!

We shopped for a few weeks for a dinghy and motor on Craigslist. I just LOVE Craigslist!! We have sold a combined $6000 worth of stuff back in San Diego not including motorcycles and vehicles. When looking for something specific, it’s the first place we look, and usually someone has just what we need!

When we’re out cruising on a sailboat we need something reliable to get to and from shore. When you live on a boat, a dinghy becomes your “car”. We didn’t need anything real fancy or new, but we did want it to be reliable. As with everything, that’s hard to come by for a reasonable price, let alone finding a steal of a deal.

A couple of important factors were considered: length, material, matched rating for dinghy vs motor, weight, floor type and functionality.

Peter wanted a dink that could hold four people (when we have visitors), two dogs, fishing gear, and/or provisions from a local market. This of course means we need a dinghy that is rated for an engine capable of hauling a load like that.

We wanted to try the aluminum floor since we will have LOTS of fish hooks, plus dogs aboard and need something that will be the least likely to be damaged from hooks or 32 sharp protruding puppy toenails.

PVC material is easier to come by, but Hypalon material is what everyone buys if you are going to be in the tropics. The sun doesn’t warp it or melt the glue as fast and it holds up to the salt better too. This of course would mean spending more money.

We originally wanted a 4-stroke motor but the lighter 2-strokes started looking better and better when we considered having to lift it off to lock it up on our stern every night in the islands. There are indeed thieves who will come swipe off anything that’s easy to grab, especially outboard motors.

We settled on an Advanced Inflatable PVC 12′ (6 person) dinghy with a
Mercury 15hp 2-stroke outboard motor. Anything less than 10′ typically isn’t rated for a 15hp motor and we for sure wanted the extra power of a 15hp. The motor is almost 15 years old but the previous owner kept it meticulously maintained, it looked brand new inside! It’s not too noisy and it’s less than 75lbs which means even I can lift it up or down to Peter when we take it on or off.

12′ of dinghy isn’t exactly ideal for us since we don’t have davits off the stern, and that means it gets hauled onto the bow with a halyard. Once we get it up there, our huge foredeck is reduced to zilch :( Less room for the puppies when they are on guard and less room for us to move about. The good news is that it’s a roll-up with three chambers so we can let some air out of the bow and partially roll it up when we are underway. The aluminum floor is awesome, super sturdy and the inflatable keel seems to help keep us very steady. Did I mention its a nice pretty white color?

The real reason we closed the deal is because of the price. We basically paid for the motor and got the inflatable for free. Turns out the dinghy was defective and was made with a bad batch of glue. It was only put in the water three times before we purchased it and it looked okay, but within a couple days of having it in the marina all the handles, rub rail and transom came off. We kind of had a feeling it would be easier to exchange it than repair the rub rail that had already started coming off the day we bought it, but this just confirmed it. Under warranty, we just had to drive to Ft Lauderdale to get an even newer one. Lucky for us, we were going there anyway to go to the Boat Show!! Now we have a brand new 2013 model, right out of the box and still under warranty, which retails for $1200. Just the motor is worth what we paid for the whole package so we’re pretty stoked. It’s not Hypalon, but we figure we can just beat this one up for the first year or so until we need to buy a new one, then upgrade to a more durable material. The tropics will surely do a number on it but we don’t care so much since it was basically free :)

New toys are always fun and this one seems to be treating us pretty well. The dogs haven’t been for a ride yet but we hope they will like it too!!